There are plenty of dog parks in Florida. Some are wide open spaces with borders such as fences that allow the animals to be unleashed, but most have some kind of leash law in effect, either by local ordinance or as a condition of bringing your canine companion to the place to begin with. It is a start, although for a state with such an amazing year-round climate, Florida seems sometimes put-out by its decision to provide services and accommodations accessible to everyone.

Perhaps this would change with a carefully orchestrated letter-writing and telephone campaign to elected representatives, but that is a topic for another article.

I have been to several dog and pet-friendly locations all over the state and have many friends who have taken their four-legged children to some others, and their reports cover the spectrum from delighted to disappointed. Some find the parks to be hand-picked locations decidedly dedicated to the unique purpose of allowing dogs to play and frolic; other places appear as more of an afterthought.

My sentiment on dog parks is simple: if you have an animal who needs exercise take him to one of these pet friendly destinations, especially if you aren't predisposed to jogging or otherwise exercising with your furry friend. Bring along a retractible lead, if they are allowed at the particular park you visit, and give your critter some much needed activity. A sedentary lifestyle, like over-eating, is more dangerous to a dog than to us.

I personally like to take it a step further. Those of us who live in the interior of the Sunshine State and are therefore not afforded the luxury of beachfront living have some limits to immediate oceanfront choices. Of course, people who opt to make a day of it often treat themselves to the beach. I suggest you seriously consider taking your dog if a seaside excursion is in the works. If your dog likes to be outside, likes to play, and enjoys water, a beach is a great choice. Please keep in mind that many parks with springs and bodies of water, man made and otherwise, are often compeled by the USDA to prohibit dog/water interaction or immersion. Having said this, a trip to the beach is worth the time and effort. A small amount of planning will yield a memorable day for all involved.

If you are in the Central Florida corridor, or the east coast, my number one choice would have to be Ponce Inlet. You will not find a more peaceful section of paradise. It is a simple, beautiful, bucolic location with a section of beach dedicated to pets. There are a few restaurants in the area that have outdoor dining areas which are also pet friendly. A quick internet search of "pet friendly restaurants" will give you all the info you need. As this is not a food critique or restaurant review, I'll simply suggest you be bold and daring.

For a dog-friendly park with atmosphere to spare, try the Ponce inlet location. Make a morning or afternoon of it. Bring some beach chairs and a small cooler with plenty of drinks for two and four legged beach goers. Don't forget a bowl. Also bring an umbrella (shade for man's - and woman's - best friend is not only recommended, but a necessity. Remember, their cooling system is quickly taxed as they don't perspire).

What are you waiting for? Grab a leash and hit the beach! Magic time awaits!

(Please note: Ponce Inlet is a gated facility in Volusia County and charges a fee as it is a park. The best dollar value is the annual pass, twenty dollars at the time of this writing. A one day pass to the beach is five dollars).

Best Places to Take Your Dog in Florida